Château de Montaigne

The Château de Montaigne is a castle situated on the borders of Périgord and Bordelais, near Bergerac and Saint-Émilion, in the small commune of Saint-Michel-de-Montaigne in the Dordogne département of France. This fortified castle dates to the 14th century and was the family residence of the Renaissance philosopher and thinker Michel de Montaigne.


Built in the heart of a majestic park, whose layout was designed by the philosopher himself, the residence was acquired in 1477 by the great-grandfather of Michel, Ramon Eyquem, a Bordeaux trader, who thus acquired the hereditary title of Seigneur de Montaigne ("Lord of Montaigne").

Michel's father, Pierre Eyquem, settled in the castle with his family, and there Michel spent a studious childhood—he is said to have spoken Latin at the age of seven—before leaving to continue his studies at the college of Guyenne in Bordeaux.

In 1584, Montaigne entertained in his castle the king of Navarre, Henri de Bourbon, the future Henry IV, and thus became a close royal friend at the same time as Condé, de Rohan and Turenne. Henry IV had already named him gentleman of the chamber (French: gentilhomme de sa chambre) by a patent letter of 1577.

From 1571 until his death in 1592, Michel de Montaigne wrote his famous Essays (French: Essais), major works of humanism of the renaissance, and fruits of a lifetime of reflection and reading.

After his death, the widow Françoise de La Chassaigne continued to reside in the castle. She entertained there Marie de Gournay, whom she had befriended in 1588 during a voyage to Paris, and to whom she had sent an annotated copy of the Essays requesting that she take care of its publication (which didn't happen until fifteen months later).

In 1860, Pierre Magne, minister of Napoleon III, bought the castle. He withdrew there after the 16 May 1877 crisis and became generally distant from the meetings of the Senate. He died of disease on February 17, 1879.

The castle was completely restored after a fire that seriously damaged it in 1885.


The architecture has a neo-renaissance flavour. After crossing the gate, one arrives in a square court surrounded by ramparts. The round tower of the library is the only vestige of the 16th century and is a popular location for visitors of the castle. It is said that Michel de Montaigne composed his Essays here. Many of his reflections are engraved in the roof-beams of the library in letters of fire (French: lettres de feu).

Since 1952, Château de Montaigne has been listed as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture.